We had the good fortune of connecting with Lorraine Bell and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Lorraine, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Creativity has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was a crafter at a young age and my first real art lesson was at the age of 12 when my grandfather sat me down with an easel and oil paints in his front yard overlooking the Chesapeake Bay and showed me how to compose a painting by truly looking with my eyes and ignoring what my brain was telling me it sees. It changed everything for me once I started to see the world through an artist’s eyes. It never occurred to me to make a career out of art so while I worked a full time job as a Congressional staffer in the 80’s, I was crafting and painting by night, then spending every weekend selling my wares at craft and artisan markets. It was something I loved doing and an extra “bonus” to make a little money at it.

For the next 20 years, I was raising a family and owned my own retail art stores. Still on the sidelines of a true art career, I was immersed in the industry without really putting my own art out there. In 2013, I created a planner/art journal and along with a group of artistic friends we put the idea on social media and invited people to “play along” with our free project. It was called The Documented Life Project and started with 5 creatives and exploded into a 13,000 person following. This was the birth of the planner movement we have today, however ours was never monetized.

It was through this process that I realized I was creating art that people were interested in and wanted to learn how to make. The next few years were spent honing my craft, discovering my niche, and learning how to create online classes that I could offer to others. That eventually turned into in person teaching as well and the rest is, as they say, history!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Through my love of art journaling, traveling, illustrating and documenting, I nestled into my own little niche as a travel/sketchbook artist. I was doing this long before it was ever popular, with journals that go back as far as 1972, that year I first learned that I could paint. I created these journals only for myself with no intention of ever putting them out there in the public eye. It was a way to capture memories through illustration and words, rather than with my camera.

Even with popularity of The Documented Life Project, I never considered having my own professional career as an artist. It wasn’t until my husband unexpectedly died in 2015 that I found myself untethered on so many levels. Along with the multiple struggles that go along with losing a loved one, there was also the feeling of, “what do I do with my life now?”

When my husband was alive, I never thought of making art a full time job, however I knew that creating art was the one place where I felt “settled” and alive and diving back into creating kept my head above water. I travelled extensively and always had my sketchbook and watercolors with me. It was also a way to overcome the uncomfortable feeling of traveling, dining, touring and just being out by myself. If I buried my head in my sketchbook, I found that soon the ‘loneliness’ was a lot easier to tolerate. But much to my surprise, that practice opened the door to many great conversations with local people, fellow travelers and even helped me to forge new friendships. I joined my local Urban Sketching group and found an amazing community of fun and supportive artists and before I knew it, people were telling me I needed to share my art and teach! I had done it once before on a smaller level so I did have some basic skills and I ran a very successful retail business years before so I did have some experience with branding and creating a business model. The real challenge was keeping up with current technology and trends and I spent months researching and learning if a professional art career was even feasible.

I knew I wanted to teach, travel and most importantly be surrounded by creative people but it wasn’t until a friend affectionately called me a “Wandering Artist,” as she thumbed through my travel sketchbook that I realized she had just named my “brand.”

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I split my time between central Florida and The Cayman Islands, so I would suggest a friend visit me in Grand Cayman.

The best part about island life is that it forces you to slow down and just “be.” A trip to Grand Cayman would include hours of quiet and down time every day while you lay on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and swim in the emerald and turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Of course that time would also include sketching and painting on the beach, using the sea for your watercolors!

Grand Cayman boasts fine restaurants and unique cuisine. Fresh fish and conch are on every menu, typically caught earlier in the day by local fisherman. Dining seaside is always best and there are ample places with water views.

As an artist, Grand Cayman outings always include visiting the lovely Carribean cottages with their bright colors and bright white gingerbread trim. There are plenty of lovely sights and local folks who are happy to pose while they tell their stories about their heritage.

No trip to Grand Cayman is complete without a boat trip to world famous Stingray City where you can swim with these beautiful creatures in waist deep water on a natural sandbar in the North Sound. Curious and gentle, these stingrays will eat right from your hands!

The days are long and easy in Grand Cayman and you must end each one with a cocktail and a remarkable sunset over the Sea – if you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to see the elusive “green flash” as the sun sinks quickly into the sea. Follow that with an evening of dancing to reggae music at a local beach bar and your trip is complete!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
As I mentioned in the first question, my initial experience with feeling like a “true artist” was when I created The Documented Life Project along with 4 other creatives. It was through this experiment that I learned what a positive and nurturing creative community could do to bolster confidence and support for an artist. This community of 13,000+ people was for the most part, the most positive and encouraging group of people I have ever had the pleasure of being around. Our facebook page consisted of creatives at every level of experience and each day it was filled with hundreds of posts of people sharing their art in the most vulnerable way while dozens of others would compliment, encourage and lift up those who shared. It was a safe space and this random and accidental group became very important to me. It was through this one-year project that I grew to appreciate how important positive affirmation was to artists.

So I would say, the shoutout belongs to the amazing participants of The Documented Life Project who not only supported me and our core group, but also the amazing artists that gained confidence and emerged in their own right through the magic of this community. Some of these “unknown” creatives have big careers today and I developed relationship and even close friendships through this incredible experiment.

Website: https://lorrainebell.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lorraine_bell/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LorraineBellArtist

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEg-fpTUTH9z_Zil84Jzi8A

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